MY FAVOURITE DEBUT: GRACE MCCLEEN

It’s that time again to discover another dazzling debut, thanks to our Desmond Elliott Prize alumni. Today we hear from author, musician, artist and winner of the 2012 prize, Grace McCleen.

“One of the most remarkable debuts and probably the one I love best is Wuthering Heights. Emily Brontë’s only novel, it was published in 1847 under the pseudonym “Ellis Bell”. It was Emily’s first and last appearance as novelist on the world stage. She died the following year, aged 30.

By any reckoning the Heights is a masterpiece. The plot is intricate, flawlessly balanced, quite dazzling; itself a thing of beauty, it is wound then set in motion, playing and paying out with the clockwork infallibility and inscrutable logic of a Greek tragedy. Then there are Emily’s characters, which, while not ‘realistic’ by quite a long stretch, absorb utterly from the first words they speak and live on, archetypal, with a fierce light in the mind. Then there is the metaphysical potency of Emily’s language. A magnificent poet as well as novelist, Emily Bronte speaks in a voice whose incantatory richness possesses the depth, resonance and authority of scripture, and, like scripture, her words contain multitudes; they have the ability to answer, nourish and foster any idea that is brought to them. Her language has lingered in the collective imagination like Cathy’s dreams, passing ‘through and through’ us ‘like wine through water’, altering the colour of our minds.

More than anything, I love Wuthering Heights because it seems, like many other great works, to have emerged more or less fully formed (which, by all accounts, it did). Timeless, it feels to me it always existed somewhere or other, and I hope always will.”

Follow Grace on Twitter @GraceMccleen